Rock Star Movie Cameos
Music and film have shared a close relationship since the golden era of Hollywood.
Extravagant, soundstage-filmed chorus line performances and adaptations of musicals helped popularize the fledgling medium back in the days of the talkies. Performers like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were among the first entertainers to straddle the line between the musical and cinematic arts and in the process became the prototype for the multi-disciplinary entertainment superstars we see today in the likes of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.
– Then The Beatles introduced the film industry to rock ’n’ roll as just another facet of their worldwide pop culture takeover in 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night. Since then, the love affair between the film and music industries has shown no sign of cooling off. Here we’ve collected five cameo appearances by iconic rock and pop stars from the last 25 years that perfectly embody those feelings of mutual respect and recognition that tie the twin artforms together.
Airheads – Lemmy Kilmister
If ever there was a movie that captured the struggle and stick-to-your-guns attitude of the genuine rock’n’roller, that movie was Airheads. You know the type: the kind of stubborn artistic genius that would rather shoot himself in the foot and end his career than compromise his artistic vision for wider recognition.
And if there was ever man that lived that reality, it was Lemmy Kilmister, who, along with his bandmates in Motörhead, spent a 40-year career playing the same kind of gritty street-born rock ’n’ roll without ever changing to appease radio trends or record company pressures. So it is especially fitting that Lemmy makes a heartwarming appearance near the film’s climax.
Besides Steve Buscemi’s character’s direct reference to Lemmy (“Who’d win in a wrestling match: Lemmy or God? Trick question: Lemmy is God!”), the man himself appears as a face in the crowd watching the Lone Gunmen’s hard-won performance. When the concert goes sour, the crowd tries to reassure the band with confessions of their own past nerdy awkwardness. “I was editor of the school magazine!” the legendary rocker exclaims amidst other cries of former geekdom. The real special part about this is the little insight into the man Lemmy was, not just the mythical status thrust upon him. Though the world saw him as an untamed wild man both on and off stage, Lemmy was a deeply emotional and introspective man. Any close listener can recognize self-doubt behind songs like “Loser” and “Heart of Stone.” It may seem like little more than a joke from one of rock’s most iconic figures, but Lemmy’s cameo in Airheads carries a lot of meaning just below the surface.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Keith Richards
The leap from immortal rock star to ageless pirate lord doesn’t seem like much a stretch for a guy like Keith Richards. A lifetime’s worth of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll prepared him for the role of Captain Teague in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in ways all the acting workshops in Hollywood could never recreate.
Richards was a major influence on the development and portrayal of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, and he was even slated for inclusion in the first two films, but various issues barred that from seeing fruition. In honor of his significance to Depp’s character, Richards was cast to be Captain Teague, Jack Sparrow’s estranged father and keeper of the Pirate’s Codex. But even more so, Richards’ character was crafted to be a tribute to the musician.
Teague’s weathered face and world-weary demeanor reflect Richards’ years of debauchery on the road that have become the stuff of rock ’n’ roll legend. With guitar in hand, Teague leaves Jack (and us in the audience) with a few words of wisdom – and ones that seem to come straight from Richards rather than his character: “It’s not just about living forever… The trick is living with yourself forever.”
Wayne’s World – Alice Cooper
Wayne’s World exemplifies the magic of rock ’n’ roll, perhaps more so than any other film of its kind. It truly captures that raw cathartic energy that made hard rock the drug of choice for blue-collar dudes trapped in the monotony of suburban life. And as such, it would feel incomplete without the without a few appearances from the figures that defined the genre.
None would have been more fitting than Alice Cooper, whose music has always spoken to the true-blue American everyman, despite his larger image and stage antics. Thus it is only appropriate that his cameo in Wayne’s World comes in the form of a lesson on the history and etymology of Milwaukee. Of course the joke here is that this educational interaction flies in the face of the general public’s view of Alice Cooper as a crude shock-rocker with little care for tact or taste. But any fan should know that Alice is a well-educated and thoughtfully-spoken man with a great love for the United States and its history. In the presence of such greatness, Wayne and Garth know only one way to respond: they drop to their knees in genuflection as they blurt out “We’re not worthy!”
Dogma – Alanis Morissette
Playing god seems like it might require an overabundance of ego and melodramatic emoting, yet ’90s alt-rock superstar Alanis Morissette accomplished it with the kind of unassuming subtlety one expects from director Kevin Smith’s golden era. Emerging on the front steps of church that plays backdrop to the film’s bloody climax, Morissette appears in a simple dress with flowers in her hair, conjuring more the image of a medieval farm girl than any almighty creator.
Though she speaks no lines in her few minutes on screen, Morissette evokes a wide range of emotions through her body language and facial cues. Then, before the motley crew of Chris Rock, Jason Mews, and Selma Hayek, she causes the head of Ben Afleck’s Archangel Bartleby to explode in a mess of blood of Cronenbergian proportions. Though her screen time is short, her cameo’s impact on the View Askew universe is indelible, having inspired a series of recurring jokes on the feminine nature of god.
Zoolander – David Bowie
Early in his career, David Bowie knew he wanted to be more than just a musician. He wanted his art to be all-encompassing, to incorporate as many genres and media as he could wrap his lightning-bolt-emblazoned head around. He had the wherewithal (and the artistic genius) to realize this vision as a universal performer, unrestrained by conventional boundaries.
It is this unrelenting approach to art that, perhaps even more than his music and style, has created a lasting legacy that influences how modern luminaries master the entertainment world. Suffice to say when he appeared in 2001’s Zoolander alongside Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, David Bowie was something of a film veteran. Bowie appears serendipitously to judge the film’s famous “walk-off” scene.
Always known for his fashion and aesthetic as much as his music, Bowie is a fitting cameo considering the film’s playful mockery of androgynous super-model archetype he helped popularize in the ’70s and ’80s. Though he has just a few lines, Bowie swaggers onto the scene with confidence, carrying an air of authority in his smartly tailored suit. The real joy of his performance comes not from his words, but rather the physical comedy he expertly displays as he carefully takes notes of each model’s runway moves.